Learning to really listen

I have bought so much stuff That i want to eventually pair down. The past few weeks I have been scouring the internet and my own library to find a dozen songs to make a test track list. With that done I am learning to listen and evaluate each piece individually and then in a synergistic chain if necessary. I figure this way i can really learn what my own personal preferences are and eventually let go of some items so that someone else has a chance to experience good stuff cheaper than new or sale priced. I am also starting to take notes so that i can better evaluate, remember, compare and properly organize my thought processes.

There is no point to recklessly spending money solely based on desires. (which i have done more often than not). If a piece doesn’t bring value to me in some form or fashion i need to let go. (Harder said than done, i seem to love all my stuff even the dust collectors :crazy_face:)

I am curious as to how others evaluate their own gear and find the value it brings them personally. I am trying this as a personal growth experiment, I am a bit of a hoarder and would like to someday manage to let go some of my extensive collection of items so that i can downsize before my next and hopefully final retirement move. I have the next ten years to figure this out, no rush and i figured this was a good a time as any to get a start :grimacing:

So how do you like to evaluate your audio gear and find the value it brings you?


I don’t know if a definitive - for lack of better term - track list can be made for your purposes here. In truth, any track can serve as a reference track if you know it well enough. Any track’s sound will change on different gear. For me I try to pick very familiar tracks from a variety of genres and recording/mastering quality, and then start picking tracks that really target certain aspects of sound, ie. “track X is a bass torture test, track Y has great vocal harmonies, track Z has really cool pans across the soundstage” kinds of things.

Even with gear you’ve had for awhile, I think the Steve Guttenburg approach will work well. Choose a master amp and dac for awhile, listen to one headphone exclusively for a few days to week, then keep that dac an amp and use the same headphone. Take notes on what you gained and lost in the switch and how much those matter to you. That’s just as a starting point, though. Good luck!


I chose to make a test track list because i am a bit ADD and switch songs often and many times before they are even done, i know this is a personal problem. I chose a dozen tracks based on what qualified professional reviewers and equipment manufacturers use to test and evaluate their own gear for certain characteristics, unfortunately I enjoy music but don’t actually “know” much about music, (I mainly use it to relax and nap). I figured having a dozen songs I can become intimately familiar with that have known characteristics and a high quality recording structure would be good as a baseline for me.
The idea of listening and evaluating one chain of pieces at a time is a good one, although very time consuming and would take me years with all the pieces I have collected and work/time constraints, but i am very happy to listen to how you all each make up your own minds. I find it very interesting how some folks pick up pieces, spend a few hours, days or weeks with them and then turn around and sell them. I am incapable currently of doing this and thus very interested in hearing more stories :+1:

I hear you…I feel like I flew past the diminishing return line a few Km back…I’m not as structured with eval…I play with various genres and try to figure betwix that and reviews where there might be some subjective weak areas for me…if it fails something I like, I see what the next level up is and probe the weak area to figure what I hear is the genre or the recording or what…and then yeah the stuff starts to pile up. I’ve also found get something for a month or two and then if you want something similar or the upgrade …make a deal with yourself and sell what you have first…for example sell your 800 euro DAC/AMPand put towards your the new 1400 euro set-up…my brain rationalizes it with "well I really only spent 600 euros " and the added bonus you don’t have piles of schiit laying around

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That is what I am trying to do now. I promised myself that I would stop shopping and just evaluate my collection for 90 days and make some decisions in September.

Well summer is almost over, I am two weeks from September and I am now up to ten sets of headphones! :unamused:

I almost bought another tube amp just to compare it to my current tube amp to see if I would like it better. This is just getting stupid now. I will make up a test list this weekend. And then I will run every headphone through every amp. As long as every headphone brings me joy in some way, it can stay. I think that if I am thorough and honest, three to four pairs will be leaving.

And then decide on the Electrostatic system and the tube amp.

In reality all I need is one DAC, two amps and four sets of headphones…said the delusional collector. :grin:


@monkey32 Interesting, thank you for that view. For me this is NOT about the money or wanting to upgrade, for the most part I buy what I want as long as the monthly bills are getting paid. My own problem is that I mix and match pieces and seem to find value in each one way or another. I like STUFF, my collections of everything I get into are extensive and across the spectrum as far as quality and expense go. Part of the fun of each hobby to me is the “hunt” for that 1 piece I have set my mind to. I tend to lose a bit of interest afterwards. Again, thanks for speaking up great to hear your views!

I’ve been using the same test tracks for about a year or so now.

-Hotel California by The Eagles (test all timbre and tonality, guitars and drums)
-BBK by Korn (treble fatigue)
-The Lion The Beast The Beat by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals (female vocals)
-Elevators by Outkast (sub-bass)
-I’ll Be Around by The Spinners (good Motown song to test iffy recordings)
-Better Off Alone by Alice Deejay (female vocals, keyboards)
-Hurricane by Bob Dylan (acoustic guitars)
-Digital Bath by Deftones (distorted guitar, male vocals, percussion)
-Superstar by Carpenters (king of the female vocals test)
-Those Shoes by The Eagles (kick drum, snare drum, crash and ride cymbals.


@ShaneD…I love it, yes that’s all i need too, and then maybe just one more of this and oh look at that new shiny thing there too, maybe just one of those and then I promise…I’ll stop :crazy_face:

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I subscribe to the use a new piece of gear in a known setup exclusively for a week or so, then swap back and see if you miss it camp.
I’ll listen to what I listen to in that time though there are probable a 1/2 dozen tracks I do always run through at various points in the week.
Having said that I don;t do this religiously, if I hear something I find interesting, I’ll A/B it, or if I think there will be better synergy with some other piece of equipment I’ll swap it.
The idea though is to get used to the equipment and decide if you miss it when it’s not there.
I really wouldn’t go to overboard trying to be too analytical, it’s often difficult to “describe” what your hearing.
As an example, I’ve said before the biggest issue I had with the ZMF Aeolus, was that listening to them I would always wonder what the track would sound like on the Eikons, but never the other way around.


Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think most people with hobbies like this one enjoy researching stuff, finding what they think they’ll love and ultimately making a purchase. It’s what keeps us excited and looking forward to something new we hope we’ll enjoy. On the other hand, if you’ve decided there are things you no longer need/want, feel free to do what you want with them. Just don’t beat yourself up over it. This hobby should be something that brings us joy and happiness and excitement for what ever might be coming next.

Ever since my mom passed away, I’ve struggled with horrible depression. This hobby, getting new stuff in the mail, enjoying listening to music, chatting with you guys about all sorts of things on this forum has been helpful to get my mind engaged onto something fun and off of the “bad stuff” that comes with depression. As long as you’re happy and you’re having fun, I think that’s the point to it all.

As for test tracks and learning to listen, I’m right there with you! If you’re interested, I just did an extensive listening session for users comparing IEMs. I listed all of my test tracks, what I specifically am listening for on those tracks and my findings between the IEMs. Maybe some of my test tracks could be helpful for your own listening? Feel free to check it out…


that’s a little difficult.
Because not only does the amplifier do everything, but also the headphones themselves.
If you take a Hifiman as an example that is really hungry for power, then a headphone amplifier that has little power will bring you the reserves in the end. For example, if you take a Fostex Hp A3 that is solid but for a Hifiman it would be easy too thin.
The other thing is also preferences: cold, analytical, warm in sound. Some like bass players, some softer and so on.
The other preference is musicality, studio recording, pressed.
Here is an example of an amplifier Questyle cma 400i musical, studio recording Rme Adi 2 Fs, pressed Thx 789. Or let’s say roughly the amplifier sound house sound.
I would proceed like this by going there and choosing headphones that you want to keep and then comparing your purchased amplifier series with what sounds best for your headphones. In the end, I would possibly evaluate the performance data of the amplifiers that still have enough reserves have headphones for later that you still want to have.
That would be the most sensible thing you can do.
or you count on all the headphones and amplifiers you have plus Dac and maybe there is someone here who knows more about the devices and can tell you exactly what which suits whom.

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i would suggest using songs you know, not what other people say are good representations. Item A may sound good with all those test tracks that you only listen to for testing purposes, and not really sound that great on the stuff you actually listen to. For one thing, a lot of the tracks that sites and reviewers use to test, are recorded well. Most music is not.

The other thing i can suggest, is to listen to your gear for a while immediately before hooking up new gear. I jam for a couple hours on current gear before then hooking up the new gear. For me its easy to hear the differences at that point as my mind and memory is fresh with the current gear.


Following up on an earlier post, I made a little quickie. Just a Word doc with a table. Now I have to make that test list.

If you look at my list, you will see the Monoprice M570’s that I don’t have yet. They will be in next week. I bought from Amazon.ca. If I don’t like them, they go back.

You might also notice an antique. :slightly_smiling_face:
It is called a Bose Quiet Comfort 3 from about ten years ago. In fairness, these were Great for travelling. When I had my own business I was down in the US or going around Canada a minimum of once a year and these were the best for noisy airplanes.

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Look on the bright side its cheaper then collecting cars (least thats what i tell myself).